There’s a study by a PhD student at CalTech making the rounds that attempts to link the intelligence of college students with their musical tastes. (The above is condensed; the full chart is here.) For the purposes of this study, musical taste was compiled by compiling the most popular artists among students at a particular school, then finding that schools average S.A.T. scores. Beethoven was the most popular among the highest-scoring students; Lil Wayne was the most popular mong the lowest.
Ben Greenman rightly calls out the shoddy methodology but can’t resist a good-natured barb.
Interestingly enough, Billy Joel has the fifteenth-smartest preference population (average S.A.T. score of 1147), while jazz (that’s right — the entire genre) has the one-hundred-and-twenty-seventh (average S.A.T. score of 946). Led Zeppelin beats Weezer, and Weezer beats Ben Harper. The top three: Beethoven, Sufjan Stevens, and Counting Crows (hey, no one ever said that intelligence was the same thing as good taste). The bottom three: Beyonce, T.I., and Lil Wayne (hey, no one ever said intelligence was the same as popular success). Read the list. Gnash your teeth. E-mail people about how manifestly foolish the study is. Enjoy. Let us know what you think — T.I. fans, remember to use spell-check.
He also points out its classism, which was one of the first things I noticed, too. Using S.A.T. scores to determine “intelligence” is a stretch (though it’s probably not too surprising that a kid at a selective school like CalTech would be invested in that idea). There is, however, a very strong correlation between S.A.T. scores and family income, for reasons that are pretty obvious. (Just ask my co-blogger, quadmoniker, who moonlights as a S.A.T. tutor in the wealthiest county in the country in terms of median income; the kids go to the very best public schools, and come from families where their parents can very easily fork over $1400+ to pay for test prep courses.)
Inadvertently, this study probably tells us more about social location than it does about what smart/dumb kids are banging in their iPods.